Category Archives: Doctors of the Church

One True God – St Hilary of Poitiers, (315?-368 AD), Doctor of the Church, Doctor of Christ’s Divinity, Hammer of the Arians

-by St Hilary of Poitiers, “Malleus Arianorum/Hammer of the Arians” and the “Athanasius of the West;” Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church

“When I was seeking an employment adequate to the powers of human life and righteous in itself, whether prompted by nature or suggested by the researches of the wise, whereby I might attain to some result worthy of that Divine gift of understanding which has been given us, many things occurred to me which in general esteem were thought to render life both useful and desirable. And especially that which now, as always in the past, is regarded as most to be desired, leisure combined with wealth, came before my mind. The one without the other seemed rather a source of evil than an opportunity for good, for leisure in poverty is felt to be almost an exile from life itself, while wealth possessed amid anxiety is in itself an affliction, rendered the worse by the deeper humiliation which he must suffer who loses, after possessing, the things that most are wished and sought.

And yet, though these two embrace the highest and best of the luxuries of life, they seem not far removed from the normal pleasures of the beasts which, as they roam through shady places rich in herbage, enjoy at once their safety from toil and the abundance of their food. For if this be regarded as the best and most perfect conduct of the life of man, it results that one object is common, though the range of feelings differ, to us and the whole unreasoning animal world, since all of them, in that bounteous provision and absolute leisure which nature bestows, have full scope for enjoyment without anxiety for possession.

I believe that the mass of mankind have spurned from themselves and censured in others this acquiescence in a thoughtless, animal life, for no other reason than that nature herself has taught them that it is unworthy of humanity to hold themselves born only to gratify their greed and their sloth, and ushered into life for no high aim of glorious deed or fair accomplishment, and that this very life was granted without the power of progress towards immortality; a life, indeed, which then we should confidently assert did not deserve to be regarded as a gift of God, since, racked by pain and laden with trouble, it wastes itself upon itself from the blank mind of infancy to the wanderings of age. I believe that men, prompted by nature herself, have raised themselves through teaching and practice to the virtues which we name patience and temperance and forbearance, under the conviction that right living means right action and right thought, and that Immortal God has not given life only to end in death; for none can believe that the Giver of good has bestowed the pleasant sense of life in order that it may be overcast by the gloomy fear of dying.

And yet, though I could not tax with folly and uselessness this counsel of theirs to keep the soul free from blame, and evade by foresight or elude by skill or endure with patience the troubles of life, still I could not regard these men as guides competent to lead me to the good and happy Life. Their precepts were platitudes, on the mere level of human impulse; animal instinct could not fail to comprehend them, and he who understood but disobeyed would have fallen into an insanity baser than animal unreason. Moreover, my soul was eager not merely to do the things, neglect of which brings shame and suffering, but to know the God and Father Who had given this great gift, to Whom, it felt, it owed its whole self, Whose service was its true honour, on Whom all its hopes were fixed, in Whose loving kindness, as in a safe home and haven, it could rest amid all the troubles of this anxious life. It was inflamed with a passionate desire to apprehend Him or to know Him.

Some of these teachers brought forward large households of dubious deities, and under the persuasion that there is a sexual activity in divine beings narrated births and lineages from god to god. Others asserted that there were gods greater and less, of distinction proportionate to their power. Some denied the existence of any gods whatever, and confined their reverence to a nature which, in their opinion, owes its being to chance-led vibrations and collisions. On the other hand, many followed the common belief in asserting the existence of a God, but proclaimed Him heedless and indifferent to the affairs of men. Again, some worshipped in the elements of earth and air the actual bodily and visible forms of created things.

Finally, some made their gods dwell within images of men or of beasts, tame or wild, of birds or of snakes, and confined the Lord of the universe and Father of infinity within these narrow prisons of metal or stone or wood. These, I was sure, could be no exponents of truth, for though they were at one in the absurdity, the foulness, the impiety of their observances, they were at variance concerning the essential articles of their senseless belief. My soul was distracted amid all these claims, yet still it pressed along that profitable road which leads inevitably to the true knowledge of God.

It could not hold that neglect of a world created by Himself was worthily to be attributed to God, or that deities endowed with sex, and lines of begetters and begotten, were compatible with the pure and mighty nature of the Godhead. Nay, rather, it was sure that that which is Divine and eternal must be one without distinction of sex, for that which is self-existent cannot have left outside itself anything superior to itself. Hence omnipotence and eternity are the possession of One only, for omnipotence is incapable of degrees of strength or weakness, and eternity of priority or succession. In God we must worship absolute eternity and absolute power.”

Love,
Matthew

Trinitarian feasting


-I LOVE SEAFOOD!!!!!

“Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through His sharing in Your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for You. But I can never be satisfied; what I receive will ever leave me desiring more. When You fill my soul I have an even greater hunger, and I grow more famished for your light. I desire above all to see you, the true light, as you really are.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with Your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, You have given me a share in Your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as His own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love You. You are my Creator, eternal Trinity, and I am Your creature. You have made of me a new creation in the blood of Your Son, and I know that You are moved with love at the beauty of Your creation, for You have enlightened me.

Eternal Trinity, Godhead, mystery deep as the sea, You could give me no greater gift than the gift of Yourself. For You are a fire ever burning and never consumed, which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being. Yes, You are a fire that takes away the coldness, illuminates the mind with its light and causes me to know Your truth. By this light, reflected as it were in a mirror, I recognize that You are the highest good, one we can neither comprehend nor fathom. And I know that You are beauty and wisdom itself. The food of angels, You gave Yourself to man in the fire of Your love.

You are the garment which covers our nakedness, and in our hunger You are a satisfying food, for You are sweetness and in You there is no taste of bitterness, O triune God!”

This excerpt on the mystery of the triune God from the dialogue On Divine Providence by Saint Catherine of Siena (Cap 167, Gratiarum actio ad Trinitatem) is used in the Roman Office of Readings for the liturgical memorial of St. Catherine of Siena on April 29.

Love,
Matthew

Oct 1 – St Therese of Lisieux, OCD, (1873-1897), “The Little Flower”, of the Child Jesus & the Holy Face, Religious & Doctor of the Church

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” – St. Thérèse of Lisieux

St. Thérèse was born in France on January 2, 1873. She was raised in a family of great faith, and when Thérèse was nine years old, her older sister, Pauline, entered the Carmelite monastery of Lisieux. Thérèse idolized her older sister, and became determined, as well, to become a Carmelite nun for Jesus’ sake. While still of a young age, St. Thérèse made her plans formally known but was informed by the authorities that she would need to wait until age 21 to join Carmel. Even so, she was also informed that she could always ask the Bishop for special permission to enter the monastery at an earlier age. Being the determined girl she was, St. Thérèse did just that.

Journeying to Rome, along with her father, Thérèse visited Bishop Hugonin of Bayeux to seek early permission to join the Carmelite order. The Bishop was surprised at St. Therese’s determination and also by her father’s support. But the Bishop said he needed time to think further about her request. Undaunted, St. Thérèse immediately appealed to a higher authority: the Pope himself. St. Thérèse and her father actually secured an audience with the Pope and while the Pope was impressed by her determination, advised her, nonetheless, to listen to her superiors, assuring her that if God, indeed, willed it, she would certainly enter Carmel as a nun. Ultimately, St. Thérèse did just that, taking the Carmelite habit at Lisieux at 16 years of age.

In her autobiography, Story of a Soul, St. Thérèse writes about a book she loved called, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life by Father Charles Arminjon.

“All the great truths of religion, the mysteries of eternity, plunged my soul into a state of joy not of this earth. I experienced already what God reserved for those who love Him (not with the eyes, but with the heart); and seeing the eternal rewards had no proportion to life’s small sacrifices, I wanted to love, to love Jesus with a passion. … I copied out several passages on perfect love, on the reception God will give His elect at the moment He becomes their reward, great and eternal, and I repeated over and over the words of love burning in my heart.”

St. Thérèse, though gifted with a determined will, also felt led to “craft” for herself a simple, childlike and joyful spirituality which she called her “Little Way.” In this Little Way, she obediently and graciously served others no matter where she was or what she was doing. We can, as many people of faith have already experienced—find much consolation in the Little Way of St. Thérèse—as we seek to model our lives after her extraordinary simple yet deep spirituality, in its love and generosity towards others wherever we (or they) are in life.”

Love,
Matthew

Dec 28 – Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, “They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ”


-detail of Une Scene du Massacre des Innocents (A Scene of the Massacre of the Innocents), Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre (1714-1789), undated

[Feast of the Holy Innocents, also called Childermas, or Innocents’ Day, festival celebrated in the Christian churches in the West on December 28 and in the Eastern churches on December 29 and commemorating the massacre of the children by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus (Matthew 2:16–18). These children were regarded by the early church as the first martyrs, but it is uncertain when the day was first kept as a saint’s day. At first it may have been celebrated with Epiphany, but by the 5th century it was kept as a separate festival. In Rome it was a day of fasting and mourning.

It was one of a series of days known as the Feast of Fools, and the last day of authority for boy bishops. Parents temporarily abdicated authority. In convents and monasteries the youngest nun and monk were allowed to act as abbess and abbot for the day. These customs, which mocked religion, were condemned by the Council of Basel (1431).

In medieval England the children were reminded of the mournfulness of the day by being whipped in bed in the morning; this custom survived into the 17th century.

The day is still observed as a feast day and, in Roman Catholic countries, as a day of merrymaking for children.]


-partially restored and enhanced St Quodvultdeus mosaic portrait (San Gennaro catacombs, Naples), Unknown artist, 5th century

-from a sermon by Saint Quodvultdeus, bishop (Sermo 2 de Symbolo: PL 40, 655) and spiritual student or “directee”, friend, and correspondent of St. Augustine, Second Reading, Office of Readings, Liturgy of the Hours for December 28th, Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs.

“A tiny child is born, Who is a great king. Wise men are led to Him from afar [Matthew 2:1]. They come to adore One Who lies in a manger and yet reigns in heaven and on earth. When they tell of One Who is born a king, Herod is disturbed [cf Matthew 2:3]. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill Him, though if he would have faith in the Child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come.

Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil. But because you do not understand this you are disturbed and in a rage, and to destroy one child Whom you seek, you show your cruelty in the death of so many children.

You are not restrained by the love of weeping mothers or fathers mourning the deaths of their sons, nor by the cries and sobs of the children. You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart. You imagine that if you accomplish your desire you can prolong your own life, though you are seeking to kill Life Himself.

Yet your throne is threatened by the source of grace – so small, yet so great – Who is lying in the manger. He is using you, all unaware of it, to work out His own purposes freeing souls from captivity to the devil. He has taken up the sons of the enemy into the ranks of God’s adopted children.

The children die for Christ, though they do not know it. The parents mourn for the death of martyrs. The Child makes of those as yet unable to speak fit witnesses to Himself. See the kind of kingdom that is His, coming as He did in order to be this kind of king. See how the deliverer is already working deliverance, the savior already working salvation.

But you, Herod, do not know this and are disturbed and furious. While you vent your fury against the child, you are already paying Him homage, and do not know it.

How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory.

Love,
Matthew

Skepticism

Credo ut intelligam is an axiom of St Anselm, Doctor of the Church, (1033-1109 AD). Understanding the Gospel with assent does NOT precede faith, and never will. Whatever progress we make in understanding the Gospel, incrementally, in our lives, incredibly slowly, is preceded by faith. Faith is required.  Pray for it.  Pray for me.

The reason many people find Christianity bizarre is they try and understand it the same way they understand everything else new, ever, in their lives.  They research it, analytically.   Anselm posits, it will NEVER make sense to anyone that way.  Christian faith is a product of supernatural grace and supernatural faith.  Not natural faith, “I believe in the law of gravity.”  Not mortal grace, whatever that is.  But, a gift, a mystery.  Recall the Catholic use of the word “mystery” is inverse to the English use of it.  Catholic mystery is infinitely knowable. “I believe, so that I may understand.” Help my unbelief, Lord.

“…skepticism…stems from the fear of making a mistake, and is based on its own form of spiritual paralysis and even despair…Reasonable openness to God, then, is a source of spiritual youth in any person or culture…Refusal of the mystery of God makes us the unique masters of ourselves, but also imprisons us within the ascetical constraints of our own banal finitude…Posing questions about God opens the human being up to new vulnerabilities, and therefore also to new forms of happiness that the artificial limitations of skepticism cannot foresee.

Augustine noted that deep-seated skepticism is a luxury item that the true intellectual cannot afford. He points out that belief—faith in what others tell us for our instruction—is fundamental for the intellectual life.17…Concretely, human faith in authentic teachers is nearly always the basis for true growth in understanding…Augustine then draws up a key set of distinctions. On one side, there is extreme skepticism, by which a person remains in a conventional posture, and risks nothing but also can gain nothing. On the other side, there is credulousness, a foolish form of faith by which we mistakenly entrust ourselves to a poor teacher, or even to a true teacher, but fail to understand the material for ourselves, remaining infantilized or rudimentary in our insight. Faith that “merely believes what it ought to believe” is “dead.”18

Between the two extremes is the middle way of “faith seeking understanding,” one that is both human and Christian. We should accept instruction but also examine it critically and studiously, seeking to find the truth in what is said, to test it…Likewise there is a discipline of the mind in becoming a Christian, learning the truth as revealed by God, and developing an intellectual understanding of God’s mystery.

…human beings tend to live “above” the merely empirical dimension of life…So too with the transcendent God, we can learn from Him personally only through faith.19

To receive this instruction requires supernatural faith, which is itself a grace. This grace, as Aquinas notes, is received into the intellect, allowing us to judge that a given teaching comes from God and is about God.20…supernatural faith is like natural trust in a teacher, but it provides something more: direct access to the mystery of God Who reveals Himself to us and teaches us. To seek to know God entails risk, undoubtedly, but it also entails an irreplaceable possibility: that we could truly come to know God personally, find friendship with God, and live with Him by grace. If this possibility is real, and not a mere myth or human conjecture, then it is the greatest of possibilities, and one that we should not dismiss through fear, resignation or complicity with the conventions of our age. As Anselm writes:

“Indeed, for a rational nature to be rational is nothing other than for it to be able to discriminate what is just from what is not just, what is true from what is not true, what is good from what is not good. . . . The rational creature was made for this end: viz., to love above all other goods the Supreme Being, inasmuch as it is the Supreme Good. . . . Clearly, then, the rational creature ought to devote his entire ability and his entire will to . . . understanding and loving the Supreme Good—to which he knows that he owes his existence.”21

The real opposition, then, is not between faith and reason, but between a skeptical reason that is reductive, and a magnanimous, studious reason that engages in faith. Expansive desire for the truth breaks away from conventions, and awakens human beings to our true nobility, against temptations to self-diminishment. The Christian vocation of “faith seeking understanding” is both dynamic and restful. It gives us something greater than ourselves to ponder, and takes us out of ourselves toward God as our teacher. But it also allows us to know ourselves as rational beings, able truly to ask and even answer the deeper religious questions. Faith therefore creates a learning community. The Church is a place where human beings have the conviction to patiently seek the truth together, in a shared life of charity, one that is both cosmopolitan and personal, both reasonable and religious, both philosophical and theological. This communion in the truth is made possible, however, only because people have first accepted to be apprenticed to revelation through a common effort of learning the truth from Another (i.e., God), Who is the author of Truth, and from one another.”

-White, OP, Rev. Thomas Joseph (2017-09-13T23:58:59). The Light of Christ: An Introduction to Catholicism (Kindle Location 656, 665-667, 679-673, 676-681, 685, 688, 693-694, 696-697, 702-719). Catholic University of America Press. Kindle Edition.

Love & truth,
Matthew

17. Augustine, On the Profit of Believing, pars. 10–13, 22–27.
18. Thus Anselm, Monologion, par. 78, echoing Augustine; trans. J. Hopkins in A New, Interpretive Translation of St. Anselm’s Monologion and Proslogion (Minneapolis, Minn.: Arthur J. Banning Press, 1986).
19. Augustine, Concerning Faith of Things Not Seen, par. 2.
20. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II, q. 1, a. 1; q. 2, a. 1 [hereafter “ST”]. All translations of ST are taken from Summa Theologica, trans. English Dominican Province (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1947).
21. Anselm, Monologion, par. 68.

Nov 15 – St Albert the Great, OP, (1200-1280 AD) – Bishop, Scientist, Doctor of the Church, Doctor Universalis, Doctor Expertus


-by Charlie McKinney, adapted from the above

“Thorough Theologian

Albert’s greatest love of all was his love for God.

Albert so loved the natural sciences, waxing eloquent in his writings on everything from flowers to insects to fish to the squirrelly daily habits of the squirrels, because they all in small, diverse ways reflected the unspeakable, simple goodness and majesty of the Creator, from whom all creation flows. Albert knew so well how God speaks to us through creation, but he also knew that God has spoken to us directly too, in His revelation, and most directly of all through the words and the deeds of His Son incarnate.

Albert’s love for God is seen in his extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, of Church history, of the liturgy, and of the Eucharist. Albert left extensive commentaries on the Scriptures, among the most prominent being his Commentary on Saint Luke’s Gospel. He wrote beautifully about the Eucharist and offered practical advice on mastering the art of prayer to express our love for God.

Perhaps Albert’s most significant purely spiritual work, De Adherendo Deo (On Cleaving to God), is one that he might have not written in its entirety. The beautifully simple, although profoundly moving book, which has been called a worthy companion to Thomas à Kempis’s Imitation of Christ, is about “cleaving freely, confidently, nakedly, and firmly to God alone . . . since the goal of Christian perfection is the love by which we cleave to God.”

Charging Champion

The virtue of fortitude comes from the Latin fortis, “strength.” Saints Albert and Thomas would write a great deal about the nature of virtues, including fortitude, and Albert clearly not only knew of this spiritual strength but did not shy away from living it.

Fortitude employs the irascible appetite and can raise our ire to fight back to defend the good, even when this means facing difficult obstacles. We saw that Albert was happy bravely to champion the cause of the rights of the Dominicans and Franciscans when challenged by the secular professors of the University of Paris. We saw too a flicker of Albertian ire when he railed at those even within his order who tried to squelch the study of philosophy. Perhaps the most poignant and powerful example of Albertian fortitude, though, is how he defended his own greatest student not long after that student’s death.

On March 7, 1277, three years to the day after the death of Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Steven Tempier of Paris, having solicited input from various theologians, produced 218 propositions that were said to be contrary to the Catholic Faith. Among that list, sixteen propositions were clearly compatible with the writings of Thomas Aquinas. Some reports indicate that the elderly Albert traveled the three hundred miles to Paris on foot to meet Tempier’s challenge and champion his brilliant student’s thought. He began his speech to the learned professors by stating, “What glory it is for one who is living to be praised by those who are dead.” He went on to portray Saint Thomas as the one who truly lived, while his accusers of unorthodoxy were covered in shades of death through their ignorance and ill will. He defended the orthodoxy of Thomas’s writings, along with Thomas’s personal sanctity, offering to defend them both before an assemblage of competent men. He returned to Cologne and poured over Thomas’s writings, declaring to an assemblage of Dominicans that Thomas’s works were so masterful that he had “labored for all to the end of the world, and that henceforth all others would work in vain.”

Of course, the writings of Saint Thomas did not put an end to works in theology but would stimulate an endless stream of new work inspired by his brilliance as the Dominican Order and countless popes across the centuries have sung the praises for his works of theology. Thomas’s philosophical and theological sons and daughters would come to be called Thomists, and Albert himself is the first and the foremost among them.

Cherished Child

For many decades Albert the Great shone as one of the brightest lights in one of the greatest of centuries. His learning was unequalled, and he was known far and wide as a man who could get things done. The bark of his preaching and teaching had inflamed the hearts of countless students, friars, nuns, and parishioners who had heard and seen him. Recall, though, the legend that Blessed Mary had foretold that at the end of his days he would be bereft of his vast knowledge. A poignant tale records that Archbishop Sigfried had come to the Dominican convent to visit the elderly Albert one day and, knocking at the door of his cell, called out, “Albert, are you there?” The venerable master did not open the door, but merely answered: “Albert is no longer here; he was here once upon a time.”

It is said that the greatest encyclopedic mind of the century, the medieval memory master, began to lose his memory in the last weeks of his life. He retained the ability to say Mass, as he had done for so many years, but he removed himself ever more from the world, content to pray in his garden and his cell. The boots that had taken him all across Europe carried him daily to the site he had selected as the resting place of his body, as he prayerfully and peacefully prepared for the inevitable day of his death. His spirit strove solely to cleave closer to God.

In the twilight hours of November 15, 1280, clothed in the habit of the Order of Preachers, seated in a large wooden chair in his cell and surrounded by his brother friars in Christ, Saint Albert whispered that it had been a good thing to be a Dominican, and then, like a cherished child, his soul left to meet his heavenly Father and Mother.”

Love,
Matthew

Nov 10 – Pope St Leo the Great, (400-461 AD), “Challenge your heart”


-Francisco de Herrera el Mozo (spanish, 1622-1685): Saint Leo Magnus (pope Leo I), 164 x 105 cm, Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

Leo’s papacy “…was undoubtedly one of the most important in the Church’s history.1” -Pope BXVI


-by Br Isidore Rice, OP

“The road that stretches before the feet of a man is a challenge to his heart long before it tests the strength of his legs.” (Fr. Walter Farrell, OP, My Way of Life)

St. Leo the Great must surely have felt the truth of this as he walked out unarmed to halt the impending hordes of Attila the Hun. Attila had rampaged through Northern Italy and would soon have proceeded to pillage Rome, had not the Pope, with no defense save the grace of Christ, turned him back.

Our destiny is to run to the edge of the world and beyond, off into the darkness: sure for all our blindness, secure for all our helplessness, strong for all our weakness, gaily in love for all the pressure on our hearts.” (Farrell).

Even when he was not confronting invading barbarians, St. Leo had to defend a Church pressured by errors on every side. In the West, some Pelagian clergy, thinking that God’s activity threatens our free will, excluded God from the beginning of man’s quest for God. In the East, some fell into the error of Eutyches, thinking that the supreme power of Christ’s divinity must smother His humanity into one nature. Even in Rome itself, Manichaeism was looting souls by pitting matter against spirit as the domains of two eternal antagonists.

Against all these attacks, St. Leo boldly proclaimed the person of Jesus Christ, who is “true God born in the undiminished and perfect nature of a true man, complete in what is His and complete in what is ours” (Tome of Leo)

“The great truths that must flood the mind of man with light are the limitless perfection of God and the perfectibility of man. The enticements that must captivate the heart of man are the divine goodness of God and man’s gratuitously given capacity to share that divine life, to begin to possess that divine goodness even as he walks among the things of earth. The truths are not less certain because they are too clear for our eyes. The task before our heart is not to hold a fickle lover, but to spend itself.” (Farrell).

All the errors Leo faced were attempts to dim the light of mystery, to make Christ, true God and true man, all too visible to our understanding. Thus they reduced the living God to a “fickle lover” who must be impressed by our good deeds, a bully who drives out what is authentically human, or an aloof spirit who could have nothing to do with flesh. But in Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man, we see both the blinding “perfection of God and the perfectibility of man.” In Jesus we see the God who does not need to compete with His creatures but rather invites them to cooperate with Him. In Jesus we see a man who reveals to man the heights to which he can be drawn.

“If man begins life with wisdom lent by God, he ends by possessing that wisdom; if he guides his steps by a light that is not his own along a road too high and hard for his feet, he ends united to that eternal Light, and at home forever in a world that is God’s.” (Farrell).

Troparion (Tone 3)

You were the Church’s instrument
in strengthening the teaching of true doctrine;
you shone forth from the West like a sun dispelling the errors of the heretics.
Righteous Leo, entreat Christ God to grant us His great mercy.

Troparion (Tone 8)

O Champion of Orthodoxy, and teacher of holiness,
The enlightenment of the universe and the inspired glory of true believers.
O most wise Father Leo, your teachings are as music of the Holy Spirit for us!
Pray that Christ our God may save our souls!

Kontakion (Tone 3)

Seated upon the throne of the priesthood, glorious Leo,
you shut the mouths of the spiritual lions.
With divinely inspired teachings of the honored Trinity,
you shed the light of the knowledge of God up-on your flock.
Therefore, you are glorified as a divine initiate of the grace of God.”

Love,
Matthew

1. Pope Benedict XVI, “Saint Leo the Great”, General Audience, 5 March 2008, Libreria Editrice Vaticana

We were made for happiness. It is our natural end.

be·at·i·tude
/bēˈadəˌt(y)o͞od/
noun
noun: beatitude, plural noun: beatitudes
1. supreme blessedness.

“Since happiness is the perfect and sufficient good, it must needs set man’s desire at rest and exclude every evil. . . . Wherefore also according to the Philosopher (Ethics, 1:9), happiness is the reward of works of virtue. — St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-II, Q. 5. arts. 4, 5

“Now I wish to tell you further, that a man proves his patience on his neighbor, when he receives injuries from him. Similarly, he proves his humility on a proud man, his faith on an infidel, his true hope one who despairs, his justice on the unjust, his kindness on the cruel, his gentleness and benignity on the irascible. Good men produce and prove all their virtues on their neighbor. . . .” — St. Catherine of Siena, Dialogue

“Perceived lack of intimacy and belonging is clearly a threat to our happiness and, indeed, is a real evil when evil is understood as a lack of a good that should be present…As St. Irenaeus stated so well eighteen centuries ago, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.”13

One hundred years before Irenaeus’s birth, God made Himself visible and explained in His own words why He came to the people on earth: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). St. Thomas Aquinas added that God intends for us a twofold happiness: an imperfect happiness while here on earth and a perfect happiness in heaven.

Starting with Aristotle and concluding with St. Matthew, Thomas tells us: “The Philosopher, in placing man’s happiness in this life (Ethics, 1:10), says it is imperfect, and after a long discussion concludes: We call men happy, but only as men. But God has promised us perfect happiness, when we shall be as the angels . . . in heaven (Matt. 22:30).”14 And what are the keys to both kinds of happiness? We saw in this chapter’s first quotation that St. Thomas Aquinas claims that virtues hold the keys to happiness.

Virtues are habits or dispositions to know the truth and to do the good. They perfect our powers as human beings made in the image and likeness of God with intellects and wills. They perfect the capacities of our intellects to know what is true, and the capacities of our wills to rein in our passions and desires to keep us from doing what is wrong and to guide us toward what is right. The more we embrace and build these capacities, the happier we become and the less susceptible to negative attitudes and emotions, including those that accompany excessive, prolonged loneliness.

Now, there are important natural virtues, such as temperance, fortitude, justice, and prudence, long known to great pagan philosophers. And literally thanks be to God, there are also supernatural, theological, or infused virtues that the Father and the Son freely bestow on us through the workings of the Holy Spirit: faith, hope, and love (also called charity). All the virtues work together to guide us toward that imperfect happiness we can experience on earth and the perfect eternal bliss we hope to share: the beatific vision of God in heaven.”

Love,
Matthew

Vost, Kevin. Catholic Guide to Loneliness (Kindle Locations 379-389, 391-417). Sophia Institute Press. Kindle Edition.

13 Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV, 20, 7, as cited in Mons. Phillipe Delhaye, Pope John Paul II on the Contemporary Importance of St. Irenaeus, no. 10, http://www.ewtn.com/library/theology/irenaeus.htm.
14 Summa Theologica (ST), I-II, Q. 3, art. 2.

Faith, reason, & mystery

Many cogent Catholic lines of thought, taken towards their logical conclusion end in “…it’s a mystery.” Granted, somewhat unsatisfying, but accurate. When the Church, or a well formed member of hers, uses the “mystery”, their meaning in using this word is 180 degrees inverted from our common usage of this word. The Catholic definition of the word “mystery” is: not something which cannot be known, but, rather, something which can be infinitely known.

-by Br Elijah Dubek, OP

“It is tempting for the contemporary Catholic, especially an enthusiastic apologist, to try to explain and to prove the faith to others. I know many, myself included, who have discussed the faith with family or friends who have fallen away or even simply have a question to ask: nearly always, I overdid it. We want to recommend a great book to them, answer their questions, or take away all their intellectual obstacles to belief. After all, if everyone knew how reasonable our faith is, they would stop fighting it and hop on board, right? St. Thomas Aquinas cautions us against this method, “lest anyone, presuming to demonstrate what is of faith, should bring forward reasons that are not cogent, so as to give occasion to unbelievers to laugh” (Summa Theologiae). This is not merely a cautionary measure for those who simply do not know the reasons, as if he is telling us to leave the arguments to the experts. Rather, St. Thomas wants to safeguard the divine origin of faith, “that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:5).

Following this, the First Vatican Council declared, “There is a twofold order of knowledge, distinct both in principle and in object” (Dei Filius, Ch. 4). On the one hand, there is natural knowledge, which progresses from human reason as its principle and reaches toward its appropriate truths (those which we can discover through experience, argumentation, etc.). The other order is supernatural, bestowed on us through the divine gift of faith, revealing to us truths beyond our natural capacity. Indeed, Dei Filius insists that “there are proposed to our belief mysteries hidden in God, which unless divinely revealed cannot be known.” Furthermore, the supernatural order can grant us certitude even about some truths within the realm of reason.

The First Vatican Council and St. Thomas want us to recognize the distinct spheres of faith and reason, while realizing that the subject matter does indeed overlap at times. For example, we can know that God exists by reason and by faith. Natural reason can arrive through argumentation concerning the origin, conservation, and governance of creation to the certainty of the existence of God (with much difficulty, the admixture of error, and only after a long time, St. Thomas tells us). Reason is confident because of the soundness of one’s argument and understanding. Through faith, on the other hand, we believe in God because God revealed himself to us. Faith’s confidence rests in God, trusting not in our own ability but in God’s testimony.

While faith can certainly overlap in content with reason, we should remember what Vatican I told us: “There are proposed to our belief mysteries hidden in God, which unless divinely revealed cannot be known.” Far beyond reason’s reach, faith receives mystery. We should not depreciate these mysteries, as if we can penetrate them without divine assistance. After all, these mysteries are hidden in God! Far from discouraging us from seeking to understand, the recognition of the hidden, inaccessible character of mystery should teach us how precious faith is. Even if only “in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12), faith enables us to see these hidden mysteries. Let us dwell in these mysteries through faith, awaiting the day we may see the Lord face-to-face forever.”

Love, living with you the mystery,
Matthew

Aug 28 – St Augustine & the heretics


-St Augustine icon, by Joseph Brown, Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY, ~2009

Rev Dwight Longenecker, Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England.
Fr Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical Protestant home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Fundamentalist Protestant Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight. Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, SC.

“A heresy is never totally wrong. Its just that it is never totally right. A heresy is a half truth or a truth twisted. The reason a heresy is attractive is that it always seems to make perfect sense. A heresy is a religious truth you would make up if you were making up a religion. However, Catholic truth is stranger and subtler than that, and it takes sound teaching to expose and battle the heresy.

Heresies are persistent because they are attractive, and they are persistent because they usually console the heretic in some way. In other words, it is easier to believe the heresy than the fullness of the Catholic truth. The fullness of the Catholic truth is either difficult to believe or difficult to obey or both. The heresy always offers an easy way out–either an easier way of believing or an easier way of behaving.

The first heresy Augustine battled was Donatism. The Donatists were a schism in the North African Church that were sort of like Puritanical Protestant or Jansenists. They thought the church should be pure, and should be a church of saints, not sinners. They were unwilling to accept back those Christians who, out of weakness, compromised their faith during the persecutions and they insisted that for sacraments to be valid the priest had to be faultless.

While this sort of rigorism is understandable, it doesn’t take much to see where it leads. It leads to unbearable self righteousness. “We few, we holy few. We are the remnant, the true church, the only real Christians…” Nonsense. If you think the core error of Donatism does not exist today, look a little harder. Although the name “Donatism” is now a footnote of church history there are plenty of rigorist schisms and sects and plenty of the attitude within individuals and groups in many different churches.

The fact is, most heresies, while seeming attractive, can be countered very easily with a passage from the gospel. Donatists should read the parable of the wheat and tares. The sinners and the saints grow together and God will sort it out.

The second heresy Augustine battled was Manicheanism. This false religion was started by a Persian prophet named Mani (274 AD). He blended elements of occult Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity and came up with a complicated New Age kind of religion. His core heresy was dualism. He taught that the physical world was evil and the spiritual world was good. Manicheanism had a huge influence in the 3-4 centuries. We can see it in the harsh asceticism of the early monks for example.

Augustine’s teachings on the nature of evil countered this. He taught that the created world is good because God does not make evil. Instead evil is good twisted, distorted or destroyed.

While Manicheanism is also a footnote in church history, the idea that the physical world is bad and the spiritual world is good continues today. It is present in some New Age teachings and in Eastern religions and philosophies. It also lingers like an echo in elements of Christianity. It is tempting to look down on physical pleasures, and the right embrace of holy poverty can be twisted into a hatred or disgust or guilt about the goodness of the physical world.

The third heresy is Pelagianism. This is named for the British monk Pelagius (d. 420) His teaching was probably misunderstood, but if so, the misunderstanding was that he taught that the human will was not so tainted by original sin that it lost its power to do good. In other words, you can do good without God’s help. This led to the conclusion that you can get into heaven through good works.

Augustine corrected this heresy with his teachings on grace. It is God’s grace, continually working in and through creation and in and through our own lives that empowers our faith, empowers our good works and empowers the supernatural transformation of our lives.

These three heresies do us the service of bringing to light the true Catholic teaching. The created world is beautiful, good and true. If this is true, then we also, created in God’s image are good. However, that goodness is wounded by original sin. While we don’t have to be perfect at once, that is our destiny, our calling and the hard adventure on which we must embark. God’s good grace gives us the power to do this. Without his grace we are paralyzed by sin and locked in darkness. With his grace we can be free.”

Love, & His grace,
Matthew